Football Echo View: Pressure on new Sunderland boss to make rapid impact

Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet
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IF GUS Poyet needs any education on the rollercoaster ride of the relegation battle, he won’t need to go far for advice.

The nuances of the dogfight are familiar fare in these parts.

Keep the rabbit foot handy in desperate hope of a positive result for the Black Cats and then race to the videprinter to gauge which of their struggling peers have been left dejected.

But with Poyet now enthroned in the Stadium of Light hot-seat, can he emerge successfully from the scrap for survival?

The ominous element of Sunderland’s current lengthy flirtation with the dregs of the Premier League table is that precious few are keen to join them down there.

Crystal Palace remain just two points ahead of Sunderland and, being brutal, that is no surprise.

Ian Holloway is without the two key figures who earned promotion – Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray – and has been left with a mix of Championship players and Premier League rejects that won’t be sufficient to survive.

But looking for two other sides hell-bent on dropping below Sunderland in the table has been fruitless so far this season.

The Black Cats are the only club in the top flight who have plunged head first into crisis.

All the clubs on the jaws of code red at the bottom of the table have managed to pull back from the brink.

Just as the murmurings begin over a manager being under pressure, his players have responded with a result in the most unexpected of circumstances.

After a week of speculation over Mike Ashley preparing to pull the trigger on Alan Pardew, Loic Remy’s brace of long-range efforts took the Magpies to double figures last weekend.

Darren Bent eased the pressure on Martin Jol when the whispers were beginning of Fulham rivalling Sunderland for Poyet’s signature.

Travel-sick West Ham’s shock victory at Spurs subdued the doubts over Sam Allardyce’s decision to splash the bulk of his transfer budget on crocked Andy Carroll.

And West Brom have responded superbly from nestling next to Sunderland in the drop zone by taking seven points from the last nine – an admirable feat considering those games involved facing Manchester United and Arsenal.

Even Cardiff, Hull, Norwich and Stoke – all of whom were tipped to struggle alongside Sunderland at the start of the season – have won at least a couple of games apiece.

Sunderland are the only club who have been gripped by relegation panic.

The situation looks increasingly bleak too; the Black Cats would need to win all of their next three outings just to average a point per match!

But no team is relegated in October.

Sunderland require a rapid return of points, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Martin O’Neill proved such a transformation could be achieved during his first three months in charge, while Wigan made a habit of it before they were finally caught out last season.

And the Black Cats have demonstrated during the last two games that they are capable of competing, albeit they were two nothing-to-lose encounters when the players had rallied after the departure of Paolo Di Canio.

It is the mental battle which is Sunderland’s biggest barrier towards survival.

Can a side who has succumbed to defeat in six out of seven Premier League games banish a losing habit?

Can Sunderland maintain their standards in games where the pressure is on them to emerge victorious?

If they can answer yes to both of the above and at least keep on the coat-tails of the pack of middle-of-the-road clubs above them, then Sunderland have a chance.

They won’t be the only club in crisis for long.

The momentum from promotion will fade for Cardiff and Hull, Fulham remain an ageing side and neither Norwich nor Stoke have sufficient quality to break completely clear of the relegation scrap.

What Sunderland cannot afford is to become cast adrift by the end of November, as was the case the last time they were in this sorry state.

If the next seven games fail to bring many more points than the opening seven, then Poyet’s appointment will be too little, too late.

Twitter @youngsunecho

* Don’t miss the Football Echo – out today – as we reflect on Poyet’s arrival, speak to the Uruguayan and have a packed page of letters on the appointment, plus much, much more.